About a year ago, author Susan Juby came to my town’s library to speak to local schoolchildren. I was duly impressed with Juby’s public speaking skills. This year, the grade sixes and sevens (and me, seated at the back) were invited to listen to Nikki Tate—another author who was able to keep the kids enthralled.
When I first heard about the event, my reaction was: Nikki Who? Turns out she has written about 30 books: from picture books, to non-fiction books for kids, to fiction for reluctant teens. And is a fantastic presenter.
Like Juby, Tate’s strength is humour…and energy…and an ability to talk. Her stories were quick and funny and animated. She had the kids laughing (and the teachers, librarians and me), and answering trivia questions, and listening quietly when required. It was as much a drama presentation as a reading—and in fact there was no actual reading at all.
I can’t imagine myself ever being that fast-paced and bordering-on-silly.
Still, I shouldn’t need to be. When the time comes, my audience won’t be as young. My subject matter is darker. Framing my presentation in humour would be out of place. Framing myself in humour would be out of place.
So how does one proceed successfully without making people laugh?
I haven’t witnessed the answer to that yet. While I have seen one relatively serious young adult author speak, I can’t say the presentation was much of an inspiration. It was fairly dry—which may have been good enough for the adults in the crowd, but couldn’t have appealed much to the teens.
It seems to be a precarious balance: presenting a more serious side while remaining interesting. I look forward to finding—and being—an author who succeeds at both.
What great presenters have you seen?
What was the name of the author we saw at a library I think here in Canmore … or perhaps in Edmonton … when you were a kiddie. He was fantastic … just my elderly brain which doesn’t allow me to remember his name.
Are you thinking of Dennis Lee? He’s the only one I can remember.